The Junior Imperial and Constitutional League was formed in 1906 with objectives to encourage practical political work and organisation among young people in Britain. Junior Associations were set up in each Parliamentary Division and throughout the British Empire, co-operating closely with Conservative and Unionist Associations with an ambition to create Imperial unity and to further the Conservative and Unionist cause.
In 1925 the Young Britons Organisation was formed as the juvenile branch of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. It closed down during the Second World War.
After the Conservative Party suffered a catastrophic defeat in the 1945 general election, the Young Britons Organisation was reformed to cater for both boys and girls aged 6–16, while the Young Conservatives was set up to cater for an older age group.
Rise and fall
The Young Conservatives attracted a large following and, by 1955, claimed a membership of 150,000. This made it the largest political youth movement in a liberal democracy, though not all its members were strongly motivated by politics. A large part of its appeal lay in its social activities that brought young people together in a socially safe environment. Countless middle-class British couples met, and (according to Eric Pickles) babies conceived, at the "YC's" dances, rambles, and charity events in the 1950s. However, the social dimension of the movement was to prove its ultimate downfall.[clarification needed]
Former Young Conservatives activists include:
- BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, who was National Chairman of the YCs in the mid-1980s, elected as a moderate candidate.
- Andrew Rosindell MP, National Chairman in 1993-94
- Eric Pickles MP National Chairman 1980/81
- David Hunt, now Baron Hunt of Wirral MP 1976-97 National Chairman 1972
- Michael Jack MP 1987-2010 National Chairman 1977
Membership fell from a peak of 250,000 to just a few thousand, while the rival organisation Conservative Students claimed significantly more members. The end came in 1998 when Conservative leader William Hague announced the closure of Young Conservatives and the launch of a new organisation, Conservative Future.
In popular culture
- Conservative Party Archive Youth Organisations, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
- BBC News Online Tories ditch Young Conservatives